The Pulpit Commentary

1 Samuel 17:25-27 (1 Samuel 17:25-27)

To defy Israel. Rather, "to cast scorn on," "to dishonour Israel" (see on 1 Samuel 17:10 ). The king will enrich him with great riches,... and make his father's house free in Israel. Many years must have elapsed before Saul could thus have developed the powers of the crown, and the last words show that contributions were levied from all the households in Israel for the support of the king and his retinue. There had manifestly been a great advance since the day when Jesse sent the king a few loaves of bread, a skin of wine, and a kid ( 1 Samuel 16:20 ). Still we cannot imagine that Saul had introduced taxes, nor was the political organisation of the State ripe enough for so advanced a state of things. The words more probably refer to freedom from personal service in the army and elsewhere; though it is quite possible that on special occasions contributions may have been levied, and presents, no doubt, were constantly being made to the king, though on no regular system. Taketh away the reproach. The noun formed from the verb rendered defy in 1 Samuel 17:10 , where see note. Uncircumcised . See on 1 Samuel 14:6 . David, like Jonathan, sees a ground of confidence in the uncovenanted relation of the Philistine towards God. The living God. A second ground of confidence. The god of the Philistines was a lifeless idol; Jehovah a Being who proved his existence by his acts. So shall it be done. As the people all answer David's inquiries in the same way, Saul had evidently made a proclamation to this effect, which we may suppose he fulfilled, though not in the frankest manner ( 1 Samuel 18:17 , 1 Samuel 18:27 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

1 Samuel 17:20-30 (1 Samuel 17:20-30)

A religious man's view of things.

The facts are—

1 . David arrives at the camp just as preparations are being made for battle.

2 . While with his brethren he hears the defiance of Goliath, and observes the dismay of Israel.

3 . Being informed of the inducement offered by Saul for any one to slay Goliath, he makes particular inquiries as to the facts, and suggests the vanity of the defiance.

4 . His inquiries arouse the jealousy of Eliab, who imputes to him unhallowed motives.

5 . Nevertheless, David persists in his attention to the matter. The pusillanimity of the entire army seems to have been accepted by Saul as quite reasonable in presence of such a foe. David's converse with the men revealed a remarkable unanimity of sentiment among them. Estimated by the ordinary maxims of war during times when brute force in individual conflict decided the day, there was, indeed, small chance for a dwarf against a giant. The embarrassment was great, natural, and irremovable. But from the moment of David's arrival this condition of things appeared to him unreasonable. Coming fresh from the fold, unfamiliar with the ordinary rules of armed warfare, and interpreting facts by principles acquired elsewhere than in the camp and among pusillanimous men, he marvelled at the dismay of Israel, and dared to be singular in his opinion that the giant was not to be dreaded. Events from a religious point of view assume a different aspect. Notice—

I. AN EMINENTLY RELIGIOUS MAN 'S IMPRESSIONS OF FORMIDABLE DIFFICULTIES . David was at this time, in comparison with others, eminently religious. The facts of life impress us according to. sentiments and views already entertained. When, therefore, this devout, God-fearing youth looked on the conflict, he saw it with eyes full of religious light. He felt that the entire army was wrong in feeling and opinion. The principle holds good in other applications. The eminently religious get an impression of the world peculiar to their refined spiritual condition. The most conspicuous instance of this is in the case of the holy Saviour. Coming from the pure, loving sphere of heaven, more sweet and restful than David's rural pastures, how different would the earth, with its conflicts, cares, and woes, appear to him as compared with their impression on men! Holy men see the world with new eyes when they descend from some mount of transfiguration. No wonder if some highly purified and trustful souls, looking on the fear and inactivity of professed followers of Christ, are disgusted and ashamed at the lack of hope and confidence. If we have the "mind of Christ," fresh, pure, deep in conviction of God's all-wise and mighty will, toned with pity, and elevated by undying hope, we shall often get impressions of our surroundings which may make us singular, but which, nevertheless, will be just.

II. AN EMINENTLY RELIGIOUS MAN WILL NOT HESITATE TO INDICATE AND JUSTIFY HIS IMPRESSIONS . The clear, truthful eyes of the shepherd youth saw the world through a Divine medium, and, with all the sincerity of goodness and force of deep conviction, he was not afraid to let it be known that he differed from others. " Who is this Philistine?" He defy the "armies of the living God!" The fire burned; he could not but speak. To him it was a most abhorrent thought that any one could dare to assert his strength against God. It is obvious that David reduced. the whole situation to a question of first principles. He remembered who the Philistine was in the sight of God, and what the meaning of Israel's existence in the great purpose of redemption. The fear of Israel he referred to loss of faith in the people's mission to the world, and in God as the perfecter of that mission. Illustrations of the same course are elsewhere found. True religious enlightenment must express itself in some form. The holy cannot look on life and be silent. Our Saviour's words and deeds were largely the expression of the effect of man's condition upon his nature. It is especially important to remember this reference to first principles in their application to—

1 . The sorrows and woes of mankind through sin. We cannot solve the mystery of evil, but can fall back on the primary truth that God is good and wise, and therefore his government in the end will be justified.

2 . The prevalent habits of the world. We must not fail to trace them to radical alienation from God, and apply the only radical cure, renewal of nature by the Spirit of God.

3 . The obstacles in the way of Christ's triumph. They are real as facts, but we must justify our faith in their removal by indicating their essentially transitory character in contrast with the "everlasting strength" of our God.

III. A RELIGIOUS MAN IN GIVING EFFECT TO HIS IMPRESSIONS MAY BE MISREPRESENTED . David's pure mind was charged with vanity and idle curiosity ( 1 Samuel 17:28 ). The accusation was the more painful in coming from a brother. Jealousy creates a jaundiced medium through which the holiest and most beautiful things appear hideous. A greater than David was also reviled, and his most holy and blessed words and deeds associated with the most wicked of origins ( Mark 3:22 ; John 10:20 ). Pliny and Tacitus, judicious men of the world, could not appreciate the opinions and motives of the early Christians. Even now strong faith in God, and belief that all obstacles to the progress of Christianity will give way because essentially human, is regarded as fanaticism. Even among some professed believers in Christ those are held to be too sanguine who feel sure that the most formidable of modem giants is as nothing before the mighty power which somehow will sweep it away. Be it so; time will show.

General lessons :

1 . Clearness of vision on religious matters, and indirectly on all, is a result of superior devoutness of spirit.

2 . 'We never need fear being singular when sustained by a clear conscience and the approval of God.

3 . The earnest convictions and simple faith of one man may, in the providence of God, work a revolution in popular thought.

4 . We give value to our religious convictions when they are indicated with candour and are sustained by simplicity and purity of life.

5 . A love of detraction and petty fault finding, while it does not really injure the devoted who are its object, debases those who indulge in them.

- The Pulpit Commentary